Via del Babuino, Rome

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I think it might have been the way the sunlight reflected off the water under the talking statue, or perhaps the glimpse of the Spanish Steps still visible in the distance, or maybe it was just the time of day and the people around me. But whatever it was, the Via del Babuino will always have a place in my heart.

Now that is some feat – after all this is Rome, the Eternal City, the city with a seemingly never-ending supply of beau-tiful piazzas, fountains, and streets. I could have picked the famous Via Condotti or even the Via Veneto, let alone a street named after a baboon of all things, but for me Via Babuino is a snapshot of everything that Rome has to offer.

To begin with there is glorious history here. The famous (1) Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinit? dei Monti) lie at one end, with the (2) Piazza del Popolo – one of Rome’s grandest piazzas and the very heart of the city in the 19th century – at the other.

It’s from here that Via del Babuino, together with (3) Via del Corso and (4) Via di Ripetta, form the Tridente, the name given to the three most important streets in Rome at that time. Then there is, of course, the Babuino itself, one of Rome’s famous six talking statues, and why the street got its name.

The ancient talking statues of Rome were so called because in the 15th century the citizens of Rome, denied free speech, used them to display anonymous political messages criticising the Papal government. You’ll find the statue halfway down the street, right beside the Greek church (5) Chiesa di S. Atanasio dei Greci; it was called ‘baboon’ simply because it depicted a mythological half-man/half-goat creature, and was thought so ugly and deformed by the locals that they nicknamed it ‘Babuino’ – and so the name stuck.

While you’re here, don’t miss the (6) Canova-Tadolini Museum, the former studio of neo-Classical sculptor Antonio Canova and Adamo Tadolini. Beautiful sculptures abound all around, and there is a lovely restaurant here too, so you can enjoy good food amongst all the exhibits on show.

Not content with just a famous past, this is also a feast for shopping. The street is literally lined with designer bouti-ques and retailers such as Armani, Valentino, and Tad, as well as plenty of art and antique shops, such as Carlucci. In fact, del Babuino and the little street running off it, Via Margutta, are home to many of Rome’s artists and their studios, so you could spend an enthralling afternoon strolling along both streets and perhaps haggling for a painting or an antique or two. Via Margutta is also home to (7) Il Margutta, Rome’s most illustrious vegetarian restaurant.

So, with history and shopping covered, you’ll need a place to rest, and there can be no shame in staying at the magnificent (8) Rocco Forte Hotel de Russie – one of Rome’s finest five star properties. You must wander along its stunning terraced ‘secret garden’, hidden away behind the street, where you can also dine al fresco at Le Jardin de Russie. Whilst on the subject of dining, right at the top of the street at the (9) Piazza Popolo is Dal Bolognese, one of Rome’s most famous restaurants and the place where people go to see and be seen.

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